Nail Yakupov to be scratched again


Edmonton Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins announced this morning that Nail Yakupov will be a healthy scratch against the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday.

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The Player

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Nail Yakupov hasn’t been good enough this season.

His stats line shows that (39GP – 6G – 8A – 14PTS, minus-25), and the fact that he’s getting badly outplayed in the most sheltered minutes available is a real problem. The plus/minus exaggerates things (last year at five-on-five Yakupov’s on-ice save percentage was 0.923; this year it’s 0.868, and one would need to be delusional to think those numbers accurately reflect the state of Yakupov’s defensive game in those two seasons) but he’s been getting out-shot and out-chanced despite getting primarily offensive zone time.

He remains a phenomenally talented player, the guy who led both his team and all NHL rookies in goal-scoring last season. He’s fast and aggressive and has a shot that is already one of the best in the game. But he needs to dramatically improve his overall play to be a useful NHL’er.

The Coach

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Dallas Eakins, understandably, feels that Yakupov needs to be better if he’s going to earn more ice-time, and that he can’t just keep gifting him with minutes if the results aren’t there.

“You’ve got to earn it,” he says in the video above. “You have to do a number of things on the ice every day. Every day. It can never change. We cannot give things to people. You have to earn them.”

Eakins further said he’d spoken to Yakupov for “40 to 45 minutes” about the scratch, and that he and the player had a “definite plan moving forward.”

Naturally, the coach is going to take some criticism for the scratch, as he took some criticism for sticking Yakupov on the fourth line and slashing the player’s power play role. It’s impossible not to recognize the talent that the Oilers have in that player, and naturally fans want to see him placed in a position to succeed.

Eakins, though, seems clearly focused on the big picture. A scratch here or there isn’t a big deal; Yakupov’s performance this season isn’t even the primary problem. Yakupov is the kind of player who has the talent to play a pivotal role for the Oilers for the next decade or more. The problem Eakins faces is turning him into the best possible player for that next decade, and if that means making unpopular decisions in a season that (like so many others) was lost before the halfway mark, that’s what it means.

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Yakupov entered the NHL and had instant chemistry with his first head coach, Ralph Krueger. His enthusiasm was obvious and infectious and a bright point in an otherwise unmemorable season. But it’s worth remembering it for what it was – that despite Yakupov’s point totals, his line was out-shot game-in and game-out, and that all too often he seemed to be floating around on the ice with no clear idea of where he was supposed to be.

Perhaps Krueger would have been able to correct that with time, or perhaps not. Now the responsibility falls to Eakins. Improving Yakupov’s game might be the single most important thing Eakins does this season as Edmonton’s coach, and given that he’s previously compared Yakupov’s problems to the early struggles of people like Steven Stamkos and Joe Thornton it’s a good bet he knows it.

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  • Rick Stroppel

    (1) I know I have ragged on Eakins pretty good, but consider this. Some of us get to see the game in person. Some of us (like me) only get to see the game on TV, where all you see generally is the guy with the puck and two or three players around him. Eakins gets to see THE ENTIRE ICE SURFACE for every game and every practice. Eakins wants to win. The reason Yakupov is playing seven minutes is that Eakins believes they have a better chance to win when Yakupov is playing 7 minutes, not 20 minutes.
    (2) I agree a stint in the AHL may be a good idea BUT(a)apparently they were not able to teach Omark how to play defence down there, and (b) what if Yakupov totally lights it up against inferior competition, he may become even more convinced that the only thing he needs to worry about is offence.
    (3) Recently Yakupov publicly said something like, “I don’t like to backcheck, I don’t like to play without the puck”. Yeah, I know, language barrier. Did anybody (like Larionov) explain to him what those comments meant? Did Yakupov apologize or backtrack? Nope.
    (4) Yakupov is clearly involved in a war of wills with the coach. If you allow a player to win a war like this, your team is doomed.
    (5) Two words: “Alexandre Daigle” I am not saying this because I WANT this to happen. But if Yakuov refuses to listen he should be traded, and quickly, while he still has the cachet of a number one overall pick.

  • BC BOY

    if yakupov was having this same performance under any other coach in the NHL do you think they would be babying him and hope that he gets better? Doubt it.

    Don’t see why people are freaking out over some tough love for yakupov. He’s not going to become a better player by having it easy his whole career.

    And people have to stop complaining about how Gagner doesn’t get scratched. Eakins knows Ganger is a questionable a marginal 2C and he knows how talented and good yakupov is so to hold them to the same standard doesn’t make sense.

  • justDOit

    Who has has improved as player during the first half of the season under Eakins? Maybe Perron? +20 players are going backwards or sideways.

    Who improved under Kruger? Hall, Yak, Eberle, N. Schultz, Dubynk, Gagner

    Who improvec under Renney? Hall, Eberle, Potter, Whitney, Dubynk

    Who are we handing on to as the coach?

  • 6zeppelin6

    Yak is just an easy target for Eakins. Lots of players deserved to be benched this year but most of them make too much money.

    Barely playing and benching Yak may also be part of a bigger plan to keep his 2nd contract cheaper. We definitely can’t afford another 6M/season forward. The season is already done, so might as well keep Yak off the scoresheet as much as possible so he has no ammo during discussions of an extension after this season.

  • Nothing wrong with scratching a young player.

    Didn’t Eakins say that he WOULD make players responsible and that they would have to EARN their icetime?

    I know some would suggest that others should be benched first but really, you can’t bench the whole team at once.

    Give the young guy some time to learn his role just like Kadri had to.


  • **

    I think Ray Ferraro said it well with Anthony Mantha at the WJ tourney on the weekend.

    He spoke about Mantha’s 1 dimensional capability and lack of effort at times. He added that most coaches prefer 200 foot players but that last 60 feet (in the offensive zone) is most important. You need goals to win games.

    I understand wanting to make Yakupov a 200 foot player, but that wasn’t his game when we drafted him and it isn’t likely going to be his game in the future.

    This kid is a finisher who can dish good passes and is willing to throw the body. He is not a shot blocker, he is not a fighter, he is not a grinder.

    Why not stick him with Gordon and Hall? He has good chemistry with Hall, and Gordon can cover their asses defensively.

    • A-Mc

      That might work, but you’d need two solid 2way guys to go with him to make up for his 1-way game.

      The Oilers dont really have any solid 2-way top 6 guys. Nuge is going to be decent one day, and Perron is good now.. That’s about it. Hall, Ebs and Gagner (Especially the latter 2) aren’t very good defensively.

      So.. you’re almost damned if you do and damned if you dont

  • Puck_In_Throat

    If Management is going to stand pat while this egotistic coach ruins the kid’s confidence, then they should’ve never drafted him in the first place.

  • Arius Mumin

    I have no problem with Yakupov being benched if it is for long term development purposes. In the long run it should pay dividends. However, Gagner is a veteran centre. As a veteran and a centre he should be held even more accountable than a raw rookie. The problem is that I have seen him being gifted ice time rather than being held accountable. To me that is an injustice and is simply not fair to the team. Eakins needs to be perceived as fair or he will lose the room.

    • Arius Mumin

      Your right, but you can blame MacLooselips for that rather than Eakins, it’s coming from up top.

      I can’t stop laughing at the hilarity of the ON fangirls. They are now defending their new lover ‘Yaky’ with the same vigour they once had for Gagner and Hemsky. Yakupov is a terrible NHL player. Yes he has raw skill but he is a net liability.

      And now the same shrill hystericals who were orgasmic in their excitement over Eakins’ hiring have decided he is incarnate evil and responsible for the horrific play of Fail.

      Dallas better be careful. If he thought the tongue lashing from comrade Igor was bad, wait ’til he experiences the wraith of comrade mummy and comrade daddy.

  • **

    إذا yakupov كان لها هذا الأداء نفسه تحت أي مدرب آخر في NHL تظن أنها سوف babying له، ونأمل أن يحصل على أفضل؟ أشك في ذلك.

    لا أرى لماذا الناس ينقط خارجا على بعض الحب القاسي للyakupov. وقال انه لن يصبح لاعبا أفضل من خلال وجود من السهل مسيرته بأكملها.

    وعلى الناس أن تكف عن الشكوى حول كيفية Gagner لا يحصل خدش. إيكنز يعرف رئيس عمال هو مشكوك في 2C هامشية ويعرف كيف موهوب وجيد yakupov هو ذلك عقد لهم نفس المستوى لا معنى له.

    • **

      @BC Bear:

      if yakupov was having this same performance under any other coach in the NHL do you think they would be babying him and hope that he gets better? Doubt it.

      Don’t see why people are freaking out over some tough love for yakupov. He’s not going to become a better player by having it easy his whole career.

      And people have to stop complaining about how Gagner doesn’t get scratched. Eakins knows Ganger is a questionable a marginal 2C and he knows how talented and good yakupov is so to hold them to the same standard doesn’t make sense.”

      Why do you repost in a different language?, are you one of those people who live half way accross the world and get paid to post comments online?, and you just forgot to translate your post?

  • Eakins it appears has a chip on his shoulder against anybody that might be more talented than him. His mentality is starting to get bizzare. Develope the kid in the NHL or devolope the kid in the AHL. Make up your schizo mind. You will both be better off.

  • **

    Eakins is using Yakupov as a scape goat to “show” the public he is all about accountability. Gagner is playing much worse when his numbers are adjusted for games played and still sees prime time. If they are really about developing send him to the AHL, don’t use him as the pinata when the coach fails to ice a competitive team.

  • ubermiguel

    I saw some defensive improvement on Saturday (covering the pinching d-man’s position, more skating the neutral zone), but except for about 2 or 3 rushes he was pretty much an offensive non-factor.

  • **

    That’s it..Bench him again.. cause it was alllll Yaks fault the TEAM did squat for the better part of 2 and a half periods vs philly and did the absolute minimum vs the flames… This word accountability is a bunch of horse sheet… there are other players to bench not just petry, smyth and yak…….why did we get rid of Fistric and brown and smid again?? grit toughness and a lil bit of nasty… ya we don’t need that at all… I have the Oilers logo and the nations logo on my truck……I really wish this team would get some friggin balls….and why is it that the coach says one thing and the team does nothing or the opposite?? I am really starting to wonder.. AND the I don’t care factor is starting to creep in.. I can handle baby steps but I cant stand regression..

  • **

    We are all looking at this the wrong way. I just figured it out. Sitting Yak is the Oilers way of officially throwing the towel. “we might as well sit Yak, no need for him to get hurt, let’s keep him fresh for next season”.

    PS: I’m being sarcastic

  • Some of the pro-benching comments on here are quite laughable.

    “He’s not that good! He’s another Tyler Seguin!” 37 points in 36 games and +12, first line NHL centre Tyler Seguin you mean? The Tyler Seguin who had to be traded and given an opportunity to flourish to find that level of production?

    I both hope and fear that Yakupov is another Tyler Seguin.

    I understand the sentiment that, because the season is lost already, thinking long term about Yak’s growth is paramount. That said, I don’t think benching him and only him while his peers also struggle mightily is helping him grow. He needs to be allowed to make mistakes like his teammates before him were, and he needs to be put into a position to succeed. And no, playing with the Gazdics and Landers of the NHL (also, how sad is it that that’s a thing?) doesn’t qualify. I feel for the kid, he’s clearly falling victim to a double standard IMO.

  • Rick Stroppel

    Gregor, I don’t get your comment about Yak” already having one of the best shots in the league.” I see his shooting% is about 8%, which is not good. When he gets his shot off it is very hard, but he misses the net too often and really struggles being able to adjust himself to get his shot off with anything less than a perfect pass. More often that getting a good shot on net he has either missed the net or fanned the shot. I’ll grant that when he hit’s one it goes hard, but I think having “one of the best shots in the league” is more than just speed.

    I hope this is the 1st step and he spends the 2nd half of the year in OKC. Not as a punishment but because he needs to work on his game. I recall that Spezza was a number 1 who spent a year in Jr and most of his 1st 2 years of pro in the AHL. Spending some time in the AHL is not the end of his career.

  • Arius Mumin

    If this team knew what the f..k they were doing , they would do the right thing and send this kid down to OKC!. If he is going to develop, he needs ice time and plenty of it.Playing 6 min. a game with some bozos is not development.

    Tell the Yak to put his ego aside, and invest some time in his hockey development, that is if he wants an NHL career.Other players went through that ordeal and turned into pretty good players. This is not a new idea.

    Unless the Oilers made a deal with the devil { Larianov] and promised to keep him with the big club.

  • Slapshot

    I don’t know why everyone things Ganger has gotten special treatment, he was on the fourth line for a game and half and was told if he broke another stick over the crossbar after he left his man open again he would have to pay for 1/2 of a new stick.

    In all seriousness I wonder if “Snowpants would have been left in the bottom six longer or had a reset if Arco would not of gotten hurt.
    It sure looks like no one who is paid over $4mil/year has a reset button.